The tried and true adage about not getting a second chance to make a first impression is particularly applicable when it comes to choosing the proper garb for an important job interview. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, most individuals do form their initial assumption of a person’s general nature and reputation upon his or her outward appearance. This is especially true in the world of business.
How do you know what to wear?
Think about the company at which you are interviewing, and become familiar with their general aesthetic. Are they an organization who values individuality over professional representation; possibly a creative industry? Or rather, are they a traditionally corporate establishment who would naturally place significance on the streamlined and sensible impression that professional apparel embodies?
Once you have determined this, follow these simple rules to assist you in making the best first impression you possibly can.
1. Dress like your interviewer
Find out what “office normal” is, and then just improve slightly upon that. There is seldom anything wrong with dressing somewhat more refined than may actually be necessary; as it is better than erring on the opposite side of the spectrum. Of course, this is to be interpreted within reason; no one would suggest a tuxedo or floor-length gown, so staying rational in your choices goes without saying.
This brings us to our next point of “fitting in”. You want to appear as though you belong in the environment, but if you have never seen the company for yourself, how do you find out what is appropriate? If you visit their website, they will most likely have images of their staff, and frequently, you will find candid office shots. Those will tell you everything you need to know. Another option is visiting the LinkedIn sites of your interviewer(s) or other staffers who share images, which can also help you gain insight into the image of the organization.
2. Accessorize gently
Avoid large cumbersome jewelry which can be distracting and appear overstated. For women, it’s best to steer clear of oversized earrings or bulky pendants, for example. Both men and women should typically limit themselves to no more than four tasteful pieces; ring, watch, and/or necklace and earrings for ladies.
3. Sense over scents
It is safe to say your interviewer will greatly favor the faint fresh scent of soap over a heavily aromatic perfume or cologne. Some people are even allergic or generally hypersensitive to strong fragrances, which is why it’s best not to take the chance that your particular interviewer is not. Many companies also have strict policies on what is appropriate fragrance-wise, for this reason. Additionally, a too-strong scent will leave your interviewer longing for the moment that your meeting is over, and this is definitely not the outcome you desire, for obvious reasons.
4. Be Presentable
The freshly scrubbed look is always in. You want clean, well-groomed fingernails, and subtle shades of enamel, if polish is something you use. Clean hair and a manageable hairstyle is also a great sign. Fresh breath is indeed a breath of fresh air, and if you’re not completely confident, or had to stop for lunch on the way in, opt for a breath mint or two before the start of your interview.
A freshly ironed (or at least unwrinkled) set of clothes, accompanied by polished and fairly new-looking shoes is always good. Stay away from garish or outrageous color combinations; as this isn’t the time to be making strong fashion statements. Subtlety is best.
The concept of “dressing for success” still works. Wearing a power suit, whether it’s a skirt and blazer, or a two-piece with trousers, fundamentally changes your attitude. Very nice clothes boost your confidence; they change the way others perceive you. They even help you with more abstract thought processes. Studies have shown that “dressing for the position you want” actually gets you there faster, whether because you simply look-the-part, or the cumulative psychological effects move you in that direction.
Clothes may be costly, but you will get a great deal of use out of them, so they should be treated more as an investment. The rest of it is all in your attitude and how you carry yourself. Once the external is figured out, you can go forward in your interview with confidence, focusing on your skills, experience, and intelligence without distraction or uncomfortability – and nothing can stand your way.
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